Pre-thought: The Doom-loop- we go around and around with one another, setting an ideal for ourselves and never looking up to God, so we become satisfied with ourselves and begin to excuse ourselves for not living up to God’s ideal. How do you get trapped in the doom-loop? Topics, people, scenarios to avoid?
Here we go…
My son Elisha and I watched a documentary on Native Americans in West Tennessee, and we were discussing the hunting methods they used. I told him we needed to learn how to hunt with a slingshot in case we need an emergency way to hunt for food (we’re always talking about things like that.) He said we should use a sling like in the Bible. “Here’s what we do- we find a sheep farmer, and we ask him to let us live with his sheep…” “Why would we do that,” I asked, even as my mind had already gone where he was leading to. “That’s what David did!”
The mind of a child associated a certain skill with a person. We often ask “how” when the question should be “who.” Who is the best? Who demonstrates the ideal? If you want to be the best stone slinger, you seek out the best stone slinger and you do what he does.
The Bible doesn’t detail David’s education and training in stone slinging. David must have developed his ideal skill set in the mountains and fields, alone, with the sheep of his father. He probably had a child-like, single focused obsession with making the stone hit the chosen target, the way we used to shoot up a tin can with a BB gun until there was nothing left of it. I can hear his mother calling him inside more than once, because he was still slinging stones even when he was at home. “Stop slinging stones, David! Come inside! Get ready for dinner! Do your chores!” Maybe his father Jesse smiled and said, “Ease up, mom. Let the boy alone. He’s showing off for his brothers. Boys do stuff like that.” David’s mother may have even said, “He should be paying attention to other things. What will he ever amount to by slinging stones?”
David had learned the value of experimentation- trial and error, making minute corrections to his aim, his technique, and his equipment. David knew the value of choosing the right ammunition. He knew how to evaluate what we call ballistic coefficient today. He evaluated the way the shape and size of a stone affected its trajectory through the air, and how to choose for maximum distance and impact. How do I know? The Bible says he went down to the brook and chose 5 smooth stones. He didn’t pick up the soft, crumbly, irregular rocks of the mountainside. He chose the dense, well-worn, smooth and aerodynamic stones of the brook. And he chose 5 of them- one is never enough. Amen?
At some point he was able to employ his new skill against an actual threat, and he won. He walked down into the valley with the confidence of practiced skill. Some have said that David could have slung the stone in the opposite direction and God would have still caused it to kill the giant. I don’t believe it. That demeans the work and practice that David put into developing his defensive capabilities and hints that David could have been haphazard, unintentional, not diligent, and even negligent, and that God would have still used Him. First of all, that kind of slothful person would never have brought themselves to challenge the giant in the first place. Second of all, God seeks those who aspire to the ideal.
Slinging stones was not the only way in which David sought to be ideal.
David had been anointed by the time he squared off against Goliath. Samuel sought him out and called him in from the sheep herd to pour oil on him. He wasn’t the obvious choice. But he must have been ideal in God’s eyes. God didn’t make an off-the-wall choice just to make a point- I can turn a nobody into somebody. He saw what David did at times when no one else could see him, because he wasn’t able to come home on the Sabbath. He was unclean from handling dead animals so he couldn’t offer a sacrifice. But he worshipped anyway. He developed his skills. He wrote and sang his songs for an audience of God and sheep. He developed the love for Jehovah that led him to be so angry in the face of a giant who offered certain death to anyone who took him up on his challenge.
God did not make David fit the anointing that day. God had already chosen one who exemplified the ideal even though no one else knew about it. He conferred the anointing on a worthy and willing vessel.
But we fear the ideal because it makes us feel inadequate. We will sooner go to a friend who will make us feel secure in our inadequacies than to go to a teacher or mentor who will show us a way to greater strength, health, wealth, and fulfillment. Why? Because God loves me just the way I am? Because who has the right to judge me for the actions I’ve taken that led me to here and now?
We shun the ideal because we have failed to live up to it, or at lest failed to live up to some version of it. We run to man rather than to God, so we have a failed version of the ideal.
We denigrate the ideal because many in this room and in our world have never seen anyone around them aspire to the ideal.
Beauty shames the ugly. Strength shames the weak. Death shames the living- and the Ideal shames us all. Thus we fear it, resent it- even hate it. What are we to do about that? Abandon all ideals of beauty, health, brilliance, and strength? That’s not a good solution. That would merely insure that we would feel ashamed, all the time- and that we would even more justly deserve it.
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson
When I first read this quote from Dr. Peterson, I instantly thought of marriage and the family. When we celebrate Father’s Day, we are celebrating God’s ideal for marriage and family, at least when we celebrate it here at Beech Bluff. Out in the world it may just be a commercialized observance that sells cards and gifts for the men who contributed to you procreation. Or for the less cynical, a time to appreciate the love and influence a man (not necessarily the biological father). Increasingly, you don’t have to celebrate the influence of a man on father’s day in the world, because anyone can be a father regardless of gender and in fact, men have really messed up a lot of people’s lives.
[Eph 5:25 KJV] 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
[Eph 6:4 KJV] 4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Biblical ideals. They aren’t just aspirational, they’re obtainable.
But none of us comes to God as the ideal.
Many of us come to God with advantages and privileges- I came from a loving, intact family, was raised in a Pentecostal pew, and had academic promise that led to thousands of dollars in scholarships. The problem is our tendency, my tendency, to “waste good.” To give up the initiative, as General Colin Powell would say. Like the hare in the fable, we lounge when we should charge ahead, and give up ground to the tortoise.
Early advantages may have predictive value, but they don’t insure that a person will be happy, safe, secure, prosperous, or saved. Advantages early in life or marriage are not signs that a person has already obtained to the ideal. Advantages are tests to see if individuals will still come to God humbly and submit to a higher ideal.
What about you who have not come from a position of advantage? A whole lot is said today about the affects of fatherlessness, divorce, exposure to abuse and trauma, alcoholism and drug abuse, and the way these conditions impact a person’s future. I have no need to offer up statistics on these things. The common knowledge is enough to demonstrate that if you have experienced these things and more, life is more difficult in a lot of ways.
Here is the troubling thing. In the world today, in society as well as in the church, we tend to lean on the affects of these conditions as a crutch, or worse, wear them as a badge of honor. Tattoos honor awful circumstances and memorialize the pain of a disadvantaged existence. We develop relationships, friendly or romantic, that continue to remind us, on purpose, of the pain we have been through, and we do things to ourselves that have been done to us in the name of “This is just how life is- I can take it. I can make it. I’m a survivor.”
Communities or cliques or whatever you want to call it, we become a part of them and a part of this endless cycle, a doom-loop, of like-minded thinking and acting that idolizes the suffering and keeps it going in our lives, keeps us re-doing all the same routines that will never lift us out of our suffering. The ideals God has set in place for marriage, parenthood, productive living, ministering to our fellow man, are written off as too difficult or even as destructive, because the ideal seems to exclude people “like us.” The ideal sets the bar too high.
[Psa 121:1 KJV] 1 [[A Song of degrees.]] I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
Christ is the God of the ideal. He doesn’t lock up His will for our lives behind a door and grant admission to only a few. It’s our own sense of guilt and shame that keeps us from reaching for God’s ideal.
He doesn’t set up the ideal as a way to look around an judge one another for our failings and faults. If we would look to the ideal God has set up for us instead of looking around, judging other or ourselves, then we would all move forward together. If we could stop looking at one another as haves and have nots based on the advantages or disadvantages we each appear to have, we would have more joy and move more quickly toward God’s will for each of us.
We certainly can’t hate those who are striving for the ideal, or hate the ideal itself. That only insures shared misery.
[1Jo 2:12-17 KJV] 12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. 13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
Overcoming the doom-loop and striving for the ideal means acting in your own best interests, fighting a good fight, and keeping priorities right. this is important in every stage of life.
What do you need to be doing? Where are you heading? Is it the best direction for you? Seek first God’s kingdom…